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Positive education paying dividends

HYPERBOLE, exaggeration and bluster:

all of the above have no place in Scot Gemmill's vocabulary. The 43-year-old from Paisley, son of Scotland legend Archie, is a quietly-spoken, articulate, bookish figure in the earthy world of football management but Scotland's future Under-17 coach - he will replace his one-time Scotland team-mate Scott Booth after performance director Mark Wotte has presided over this week's elite round matches against Belgium, Bosnia and Romania - knows his own mind and has a few choice observations to make about the state of our game.

For a start, he doesn't buy into the usual negativity about the state of young talent being developed in this country. Perhaps this is because he has come fresh from working with a group of players born in 2000 and consequently the first to benefit from all the SFA's performance strategies, and he feels confident they are on a par with the first teams of any nation at that age group.

"I am obviously going out on a limb here a wee bit because I haven't seen the top nations at that level," said Gemmill. "But I would be really, really shocked if there was a difference right now between our 2000s and that of the other elite countries. Credit to the SFA and the pathway which is in place to get them to this level. Those kids have had more hours and learning than any previous generation and for me it is noticeable. The level, not only in technique but in terms of intelligence and game understanding and positional understanding is there to see.

"People like me are already talking about them, and looking forward to coaching them and watching them play. But going forward, how they develop between now and the age of 18 is even more important."

Gemmill earned a healthy 26 caps for his country, although he made the squad on many more occasions, which included making it to Euro 96 and France 1998 but not getting on to the field at either.

Having been kept out of a professional club football environment as a youngster, perhaps to bolster his fragile confidence, Gemmill served his apprenticeship in the old school environment of Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest and he is pleasantly surprised to see how analytical the next generation of Scottish footballers can be about their chosen profession.

"We took the 1998s to Turkey at the end of January, and although we didn't qualify for the final, we watched Turkey play USA, who won it very impressively," said Gemmill. "We got the players to assess the players in their position, what they liked, what they didn't like, what they could have done better, and present to the staff at night time. I wondered whether they would do it properly. But we were sitting behind them and they watched it vigilantly, discussing their notes. Even the ones who didn't get the chance were coming up afterwards wanting to discuss it.

"I was schooled at Nottingham Forest and there was none of that. It was basically five-a-sides every day and the team was listed after that."

Perhaps that is why, unlike Ian Cathro (now of Rio Ave), Ray McKinnon (Brechin City) and Booth (Stenhousemuir), Gemmill is happy to resist the overtures of the club game to stay in the Scotland system.

Gemmill, who spent time studying Espanyol during a stint in Barcelona, is still developing his world view and methodology in coaching, and is currently reading The Chimp Paradox, by Dr Steve Peters, England's sports psychologist for Brazil 2014. He doesn't plan on leaving much to chance.

"Jim Fleeting [the SFA's head of coach education] used to ask me things like 'how do you want your team to play?', 'how are you going to get your messages across?'. And if I am honest back then I didn't know. I like to think I have a great footballing brain, but it is a different skill to impart that information."

He might seem like the perfect figurehead to guide this brave new generation, but in one respect he has ­let us all down. Scot, famously named "Scotland" and born north of the border only after an 11th-hour drive from the Midlands, has disappointingly allowed his own three-year-old son Magnus to be born in England.

"I couldn't talk my wife into driving up to Scotland for it!" said Gemmill. "I haven't bought him a strip yet, but I am fairly sure that the first one is going to be a Scotland one.

"Although, in saying that, we lived in Barcelona for the first two years and I was very tempted to get him a Barcelona top."

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